Recently, Diego and I flew out to Chicago to attend Under Consideration’s Brand New Conference. The conference, centered around branding, was packed with two days of awesome, and inspiring designers.

“Never press the back button. Always move forward.” – Jonathan Lee

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Jonathan Lee works on the UXA team at Google which is “focused on developing a unified design framework in direct collaboration with Google’s product design teams.” Rather than focusing on specific projects, they work to push Google’s design throughout the company, a recent example is Material Design.

During his talk, Lee made a comment I found really interesting. He said, “Never press the back button. Always move forward.” He was referring specifically to the recent Google iO conference when he was asked to be in charge of the remote during a group presentation. Lee was informed right before the presentation that he had to be careful not to move through the slides too quickly as he wouldn’t be able to go back. They had disabled the back button.

Even though in this case it was simply flipping through slides, he said that it spoke to Google’s larger goal to evolve with everything they do. And you know what? They’re right. We have to constantly move forward to be ahead of the game and be successful in any industry.

This value is something we take seriously at Percolate. For example, during employee onboarding, Noah, our co-founder and CEO, sits with every employee and walks them through the history of the company and core values. One of these values is “don’t be nostalgic.” The idea is that things are constantly changing and in order to be a leader in our industry we have to always look forward and build the product our clients are going to want and need.

“Look for opportunities when there are none.” – Sebastian Padilla

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When Sebastian Padilla presented, he was hilarious and authentic. He brought us back to when he and a couple of friends decided to start a design firm called Anagrama in Monterrey, Mexico. At the time of starting the company, Monterrey was a very industrial city with little design culture or demand for design services. They knew it was risky but went for it anyway.

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Instead of moving to a bigger city, they made Monterrey work for them. At first the only projects Anagrama could land were catalogs for manufacturing factories. Over time, they noticed their industrial clients actually had a direct connection to something that could lead to opportunities that they were more attracted to. Their clients had “rich wives who were very bored” and who were starting their own pastry shops, cafes, clothing stores and hair salons. By focusing on working with these new small businesses, Anagrama was able to work on design projects that was more their style.

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Anagrama has created a lot of great work and it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t created the opportunity for themselves. It goes to show that you can’t just wait for the work, you have to be proactive and go for it.

“We try to take commodity products and turn them into something more interesting.” – Björn Kussofsky

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Björn Kussofsky is CEO and Co-Founder of the Swedish design studio, Stockholm Design Lab. I’ve been a big fan of SDL for a while and had been looking forward to listening to Bjorn speak. SDL’s most well-known work is the suite of packaging they designed for Ikea furniture, then later followed by the packaging design for Ikea’s food products. Bjorn spoke about SDL’s goal to turn products that typically have mundane package design into something witty and intriguing.

Another example of this was SDL’s redesign of batteries for Askul. What I like about this battery design is that they don’t follow the cliche conventions that other brands lean on; slogans about power, lightning bolt iconography and bright color banding. Instead, they have create a more modern look and feel, and added function to the design using large numbers to communicate battery type.

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This is a good outlook to have in mind when designing things that at first may seem dull, or uninteresting. Not every project is the most gripping, unless you make it exciting. You have to have fun with it. This can come from putting together a well formed creative brief to inspire designers, or a team’s ambition to go above and beyond.

The beautiful thing about a design conference is that you’re guaranteed to walk away inspired. Diego and I heard about new processes from designers, saw inspiring presentations, and met with leaders in the design field. We left Chicago fired up to design awesome stuff.

You can read the full conference recap and watch videos here.

Next year the conference is back in NYC. Let’s go.